Lionel Messi and Jose Mourinho may have been rivals in the past, but the outspoken coach could not help but express his admiration for the superstar after a masterclass versus Liverpool.
The pair went toe-to-toe for major honours during the Portuguese manager’s stint at Real Madrid between 2010 and 2013, with the forward turning out for Barcelona. However, any tension between the old rivals was nowhere to be seen as Mourinho waxed lyrical about his former foe back in 2019 and dubbed him the “God of Football”.
The former Chelsea and Manchester United boss’ admiration was plain to see after he witnessed Messi put Liverpool to the sword in the Champions League semi-final. The Reds’ storied turnaround in the second leg has gone down in history but the diminutive winger inspired his team to an unlikely 3-0 win in the first leg.
Despite Jurgen Klopp’s side dominating the possession at Camp Nou, the ruthlessness of the Blaugrana’s attack was uncompromising on the night. The Merseysiders had 53 percent of the ball during the first leg but the La Liga giants were not fazed by their lack of control in the encounter.
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According to Mourinho, the surprising scoreline following a game in which Barca had mostly been on the backfoot was all down to talisman Messi. Barcelona’s then-captain was among the goalscorers, with his sublime free-kick from 35 yards out the pick of the bunch.
Reflecting on Messi’s impact on the game, the current AS Roma manager said to Russia Today : “Liverpool was brave in the approach. I don’t think in the past 20 years many teams in the Champions League beat Barcelona in ball possession in the Champions League.
“God of Football made it completely different. Of course (Barca) have a good team, phenomenal players, but that player is absolutely incredible.”
Adding his own analysis of why Liverpool failed to lay a glove on their opponents, despite dominating the possession, Mourinho added: “Liverpool deserve much more than the 3-0 defeat but in the last two corners of the game it could be 4-0 or 5-0.